Book Review: A Cage of Desires
Author: Shuchi Singh Kalra
Rating: Four stars
Author Shuchi Singh Kalra third and latest offering, â€˜A Cage of Desireâ€™ takes readers on an erotic trip set against a middle-class Indian background and its biggest forte is about human desires, pain, longing for love and lost emotions set against a patriarchal society. The premises lend the erotic story a soul that makes it a winner all the way and the author depicts steamy sex scenes in a unique fashion to portray the main character Renuâ€™s â€˜desperateâ€™ attempt to wade through the labyrinth of her mind and unfetter herself from societyâ€™s shackle. Â In short, the author is a rule breaker, upping the quotient right from â€˜Done with Menâ€™, â€˜I am Big so Whatâ€™ and now â€˜A Cage of Desiresâ€™ where she breaks all taboo and writes about sex, tapping into the characters to make them free minus prejudices or taboo. A Cage of Desire is the true winner for it departs from the run-of-the-mill erotic books that stand apart through the unbridled theme.
Check the book blurb here.
Picture courtesy: Shuchi Singh Kalra.
The book taps into the life of Renu, a traditional middle-class home maker in this story woven in a simplistic manner taking into account frailties to make her human. There is no overt drama in the first place and this is what makes the book relatable to every woman worth her salt who refuses to be cowed down as an object or ascribed with social labels.
Renu is caught between her children, a thankless father in law and an unhappy marriage with Dev when sparks flow with her tenant Arjun that pushes her to unpeel the madness of limitless sex. Â â€œRenu ultimately blew warm air into the pallu of her cotton saree and began dabbing it on his left eye…her heart raced at the memory of him licking the chocolate icing off her fingers and the mischievous glint in his eyes when he looked at her.â€�
The biggest tragedy about sex is that we belong to the land of Khajuraho and Kamasutra but desire is suppressed with the baggage that we all know. Lust is forbidden. Sex is bad. Yet, itâ€™s the biggest truth that we shy away from. Kalra shatters this myth in a searing honest manner and the build-up to intimacy, savage sex or love making scenes in the narration is heart pounding.
There is something gentle in the depiction of the human desire and the stillness, â€˜inexplicable currents coursing through her body with each advancing step of hisâ€™, that meets the storm dripping like current to quench and consume desire. Â Of course, the expression, â€˜he touched her in a way anyone else didâ€™ speaks about human desire and a sexless marriage.
The main protagonist is an author who writes about sex and erotica by the pen name, â€˜Mayaâ€™ and the best thing about A Cage of Desire it is a book within a book. Itâ€™s a bible on desire and Maya who complement each other beautifully.
Itâ€™s about unrequited love with Arjun and the great betrayal gains powerful expression through Urdu prose, hab, aqueedat, ibadat and junoon. I love novelty in books, particular hot erotic ones that are not routine unlike our classic idea of sex that tends to be melancholically mechanic. Kalra doesnâ€™t fall in this trap and introduces the novel concept of love letter to express pain and angst, choking voices and soul stripped in the open. The letter is Renuâ€™s heart torn apart yet crumpled into the bin. This sequence is gut-wrenching about losing in love and serves as an analogy to a naked soul without inhibition.
â€œBut I tell you what you are not-you are not the cause of my pain….mine is a very ordinary kind of love really, which is because I am an ordinary person-a little extraordinary may be, not extraordinary.Â Ordinarily insane love; the kind that comes with hurt and hope in equal measure…it chokes my breath. It makes me sick in the pit of my stomach.â€�
The best thing about, â€˜A Cage of Desireâ€™ is that it is an erotic thriller interwoven with suspense at the right time where the reader is tempted to ask, â€œWho is Maya?â€� An ordinary or scheming woman on impersonating identity as the drama unfolds Kalra is a savage, Brutus writer packing a punch that has become her trademark now. The reader is introduced to Kamini, perhaps an alter ego to Maya and a rival at the same time.
The theme of identity and betrayal is recurrent and impactful with Kamini as the vamp in the story. She offers something that Renu fails to offer as a woman embedded in the dichotomy of relationships, laden with the element of simplicity in stark contrast to glamour.
The book is not confined solely to eroticism. There is a thin demarcation line between fiction and truth. We have all heard publicly on social media about manuscripts being plagiarized and stolen. Kalra hits the right nail and the great betrayal almost costing the protagonist her prized work and it flows effortlessly into the story without wielding an accusatory finger.
The second love angle in the story between Dev and Kamini doesnâ€™t seem to fit the premise, is fleeting in appearance where both suddenly disappear from the plot. Â Renuâ€™s close confident, Akriti, could have been given more space in the book and turned as Renuâ€™s strength.
â€˜A Cage of Desireâ€™ holds no bare unpeeling the layers about sex, identity and pain particularly when Renu makes violent love to Arjun, overpowering him during the act to satiate her hunger. The sequence is telling and blows the lid open on Renu wearing the hat of an angry Goddess and one cannot fail to see a striking resemblance to Kali in the Hindu pantheon spreading havoc on what makes her a bruised woman. Of course, Renu, the woman whose voice was stifled unleashes the beast on Bauji, placating him for his conservative and patriarchal values has an escalating effect on the character that wants to break free in a world stifling voices of women trapped in a bad marriage. Shuchi Singh Kalraâ€™s book is not only coming of age but strives to break barriers on a womanâ€™s legitimate right in claiming what is rightfully hers, body, sexual desires and right to love in a society infested by exploitative norms as the biggest patriarchal excuse. A Cage of Desire is the best book coming on the shelves after ages, exploring Indian eroticism in a rare fashion, fleshing the intimate scenes and zones in-depth. Shuchi Singh Kalra has gone in an experimental and daring fashion where very few writers have gone without fear or clichÃ©. The cherry on cake is Renu finding love with a man, Mihir, fitting with the concept of â€˜free loveâ€™.
Thanking the author for sending me a copy of her book for review.